When I first saw Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor, I was immediately taken back to the mid 90’s early 3D shooters. I also got nostalgic for Space Harrier. Thunder Kid isn’t quite on par with my initial impressions but its a charming oddity that will be mostly valued by those of us who gamed during these times and want a straightforward retro throwback to simpler times of yesteryear.
Your kid is armed with a very simple gun that shoots straight forward as you run forward constantly down very narrow corridors. Robots appear and shoot back and so just like Space Harrier, you’ll have a bullet hell styled dodge em up going on as you switch lanes or jump over bullets to not lose life. The game isn’t lane by lane – you’ll have more movement than that – but I found Thunder Kid easier to play when I segmented the world into lanes. This is because most levels are three lanes wide most of the time and robot fire largely stays in one or two lanes. Robots get gradually more complex as you progress. They’ll jump, shoot more and in different patterns and often emulate tiny versions of the end of area bosses.
The bosses are Thunder Kid’s jewel in the crown as they open up the area of attack and have far more manoeuvrability. Attack patterns really do resemble bullet hell games (whilst not being over the top) so moving back and forth and side to side whilst unloading your gun into the robots is satisfying and fluid. There are six areas and 30 levels but levels are quite short. You’ll be in and out well under two hours even if you are a slow coach like me. Collectable coins are a nice extra and some levels have multiple routes so there this some surface level replayability.
My main issues with Thunder Kid comes largely from a lack of polish or change. All the bosses take place in a simple silver room. The levels all feel like they are reskins of previous ones. Graphics sometimes glitch or shimmer. The music loop is very short. The platforming feels clunky in a nostalgic-in-the-wrong-way kind of feeling. By that, your movement is very binary and there’s zero subtly in your moves. The gameplay loop doesn’t really change from level 1 to 30 and neither does anything your character can do either. It is short but Thunder Kid doesn’t outstay its welcome either. It’s certainly playable and fine whilst I completed it but I have little urge to return or find it memorable beyond the aesthetic.
Thunder Kid has now reached consoles which is great and I hope its PC sequel does too as there is a niche slice of retro gamer that will likely lap this up. If you are that kind, bump the score up one. For the rest of the gamers, I think it’ll be a bit too simple to really engage gamers who’ll be confused with 90’s gaming tropes and designs. A palette cleanser.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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